TotalWellbeing: April 2014

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April 2014: Intellectual & Social Wellbeing

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Don’t be fooled!

Welcome to the April issue of TotalWellbeing! We figured that April would be the perfect month to introduce our next two topics of the year, intellectual and social wellbeing. Your mind is an amazing and unique tool that needs stimulation in order to grow and prosper. Interacting with other people is a great way to give your mind just that sort of stimulation. Be careful though, as our social connections, who we spend our time with, and how they affect the way we think is a force that shapes who we are as individuals in ways you may never have thought about before.

 

In case you missed our blog last month, we saw another insightful post by Dr. Mines on the importance of positive mind states. This was invaluable information showing that through guiding your thoughts and maintaining a positive outlook can help you see the good in any situation, and help seize opportunities others may miss. This month keep your eyes open for a post from our very own human resources specialist Daniél Kimlinger, and as always please use this chance to let us know what you think and what you’d like to see more of by commenting there!

 

To your total wellbeing,

The MINES Team

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The Connection:

Intellectual & Social Wellbeing

Peer pressure, social influence, trends, and other social forces tend to help shape the way we think, what we like or don’t like, what we consume, how much we exercise, and many other aspects of our lives. In order to be in control of your mind and your wellbeing, it is important to be mindful of how our friends, family, and society in general affect our cognitive processes and actions in order to become an influencer and less influenced.

Intellectual Wellbeing

Social Wellbeing

Stop Sweating the Small Stuff

braininhand

Do Your Own Financial Planning

parents fighting

In order to maintain intellectual wellbeing it is important to maintain an open mind and stimulate your brain as much as possible. Use these tips from Wikihow.com to help exercise your mind all day long and become smarter and more creative in the process!To read the full article, click here. Social influence is a complex topic. So to start things off here is a look at our most basic and crucial social group, the family. Livestrong.com takes a look at how children, who are in the most impressionable mental state, are affected by stress within this critical social circle.To read the full article, click here.

 

 mines_logo_blue MINES does not warrant the materials (Audio, Video, Text, Applications, or any other form of media or links) included in this communication have any connection to MINES & Associates, nor does MINES seek to endorse any entity by including these materials in this communication.  MINES accepts no liability for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided herein, nor any additional content that may be made available through any third-party site. We found them helpful, and hope you do too!

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Health inSite: Decisions and Privacy

Originally posted on xchangehealth:

There is a shift in healthcare related to our concept of privacy that is sorely needed – and it’s probably a little different than what you’ve heard from a lot of groups/people around the web.

We need to stop thinking about healthcare as a private thing.

As far as information about us, it’s simply no longer acceptable to consider our lives as private.  Not in a time where we actually understand our social network to such a degree that we can accurately and effectively map our connections in the social network (not like Facebook but friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and the ‘guy at the gym’) and understand how we consciously and unconsciously make decisions about how we behave.  These behavioral changes manifest in health outcomes and as we move to a healthcare system (rather than a sickcare system) what you do is what you are – or more precisely what you are going to become.  Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t be protected from abuse or discrimination or anything like that, but functionally, your decisions every single day are going to have an impact on more than just you; you owe some accountability to your social network (and they to you) as to what your decisions are doing every day, because Community is the Key to Health.

You may not know it yet, but what you decided to eat for lunch today (if you ate lunch today – and for some of you that might not even be the case) was decided long before you actually ate your lunch.  Here’s a non-exhaustive list of the ways in which this decision was made before you actually ate it:

Schedule: The structure of your day had an impact on what you ate for lunch.  Did you have a co-occurring meeting and therefore ate a “bagged lunch?” Did you have a meal prepared ahead of time – and if not did you have to throw a lunch together this morning before leaving, or did it force you to “forage” for a lunch?

Environment: Consider how the environment surrounding your lunch impacts your lunch decision. Did you run out for lunch because you needed some fresh air or a break from the office?  Do you have a place where you regularly eat lunch and therefore have a system for preparing for that meal each day – conversely, did that get interrupted for this particular lunch by environmental impacts like bad weather or the space itself was occupied in a way that prevented you from following that regular schedule?

Social Impact: For some, eating lunch is a social activity.  Do you have a regularly scheduled lunch partner? Was that true today?

Resources: Money and time as resources have an impact on the structure of lunch.  How do you use these resources in an intentional way related to your lunch habit? Do you spend money at a restaurant / court / vending machine each day or bring your lunch?  Do you have the resources of time and money to prepare ahead or use those resources to forgo preparing ahead?

And let me tell ya’, this isn’t even the beginning of the ways that this could be further expanded.  Think about all of the ways that a single meal is planned and replicate that process for each decision you make today.  Exercise, nutrition, social activities, occupational activities, mindfulness activities, financial decisions, personal intellectual development, etc. etc. etc.

Now think about this: why did you make those decisions?  Consciously or not, you may have made those decisions because of someone else.  Did your partner pack your lunch and therefore help to make the decision of what you’re eating – or was shopping not prepared in a way to pack that lunch in the preferred way?  How much of your diet is based on someone else’s decision?  Maybe your doctor suggested a change in your diet?  Maybe you or a family member has a dietary restriction that changes your diet on a daily basis.  In the case of a family member’s restriction, maybe your lunch is the time when that restriction doesn’t apply to your personal diet?

Lastly consider this: Can you push yourself to make a given decision either by limiting or adding options?  Can you change the options you have available at the point of decision-making with a little bit of foresight?  Try to find one example of a way that you can “pre-decide” by removing the alternative option.  Maybe one of the questions above can be flipped to help you make a “pre-decision” that will help you make a single, healthier decision this week – even if it’s only once.  You might find it’s pretty easy to do and may be a powerful way to change your behavior in a positive way.  And then consider the flip-side of this.  How can you help someone else through a “pre-decision” that helps someone in your social network make a decision that is healthier for them?

Here’s what I’m saying, and to slightly alter a quote from Cloud Atlas:

Our health is not our own. We are bound to others, near and far, and by each decision and every sharing of those decisions, we birth our health.

It’s time for us to stop thinking that we are fully separate members of society that don’t have an impact on others and start being accountable to one another for how the decisions we make impact others – and vice versa.  Yes, even in health.

To our health,

Ryan Lucas
Manager, Engagement & Development
Follow me on twitter: @dz45tr

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Marcia’s reFrame #2: Spring

SpringSpring/verb

1. move or jump suddenly or rapidly upward or forward.

2. originate or arise from.

“emotion and creativity could spring from the same source”

Synonyms: Originate, derive, arise, stem, emanate, proceed, issue, evolve, come

All art springs from feelings.

Spring is a time of new beginnings and reawakening. It invites us, and everything around us, to emerge and unfold. I often see clients that are held back due to self limiting beliefs – about what they can or can’t do, what their company can or can’t achieve, or what they think their colleagues are willing or unwilling to do. After growing up in California, and going on 17 years of living in Colorado, I have come to truly appreciate spring. There is something intoxicating about seeing the days get longer and spring flowers bursting through the soil in a profusion of color.  I love the feeling of my toes twinkling with delight as they come out from hibernation; it’s like they are sensing the fresh air and warmth of the sunlight for the first time after being kept in the dark for so long with thick socks, shoes, and boots!

Their thoughts may be based on irrational beliefs, inaccurate information, unexamined assumptions, or unresolved pain from the past. Just like a plant needs nutrients, we need healthy “cognitive” nutrients for our brain and thinking patterns.

One particular client, Lucy (name changed!), held the limiting belief for many years that she was not good at networking. She would attend large professional conferences and be overwhelmed by how many people she didn’t know. She would engage in distancing behaviors during the breaks; check emails, make calls, and look preoccupied. Sure enough, she would leave the conferences with no new contacts which reaffirmed  to her that she was horrible at networking! Because her job required her to make new business contacts, she made a resolution to put this limiting belief behind her and embrace some positive, energizing beliefs.   She told herself;

“I can meet new people.”

“I will volunteer on a committee and get to know a few people.”

“I will ask them to introduce me to other people so I can continue to improve my networking skills.”

Guess what! By embracing those “spring forward” beliefs and replacing those formerly self-limiting beliefs, Lucy  is now the chair person of the membership committee and networking with confidence on a regular basis for her work.

I believe that when people are nurtured, they too blossom and unfold.  In the words of Anne LaMotte, “forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past” so that we accept what was and let go of our hurt and disappointments. In doing so, we can spring forward, create new beginnings, and cultivate meaningful relationships. I invite you to nurture yourself this spring, pay close attention to what emerges, and embrace what unfolds in this season of new beginnings and awakening.

 

 

To Your Health and Wellbeing,

- Marcia

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Psychology of Performance 45: Positive Mind States

I have been reading John Perkins’ book, Psychonavigation (1990). He has a chapter entitled, “Posiguides,” that was a precursor to many of the psychology of performance concepts and the positive psychology movement. This blog summarizes the four main concepts in the chapter (p. 107-112).

“Posiguide One: No matter what your situation, several times each day stop and think about the good aspects, the enjoyable and self-expanding ones, of what you are doing.”

“Posiguide Two: Use visualization in a positive way; be aware throughout the day of the many times you visualize and take control of these; expunge your negative visions mercilessly and concentrate on positive ones.”

“Posiguide Three: Attune yourself to nature, and understand what nature demonstrates so clearly – there is no such thing as failure.”

“Posiguide Four: You have the ability to act and take control. As long as you realize this, how can you be anything but positive?”

Some of the key elements of these guides for positive thinking are based in the mindfulness research and positive psychology movement. For example, in Posiguide One, this is a different version of “where your mind goes, the energy goes.” It has implications for goal setting, positive mental states, and elevated energy in performance.

Posiguide Two is a mindfulness comment that increases awareness of patterns and is consistent with cognitive behavioral techniques related to refuting irrational and negative self-statements and mental images.

Posiguide Three directly challenges our cultural assumptions (shared beliefs about how things should be or be done) about success and failure. Perkins stated that nature does not have failure as a concept. In nature there are cycles of life – energy moving from one form to another. It is only our cultural assumptions that introduce the concepts of success and failure with the corresponding stressors and unanticipated consequences.

Posiguide Four is a reminder of Seligman’s original research on learned helplessness and not getting caught up in it. It is a reframe of circumstances and focusing on what you can control versus what you cannot. Victor Frankl’s work on the Holocaust camps also addressed this aspect of resilience and how we can survive horrible circumstances through redirecting our thinking.

In summary, positive thinking, visualization, refuting our irrational beliefs and assumptions, and empowering ourselves can add substantially to our performance, our quality of life, and our health. Something for us all to be mindful of and practice as much as we can.

Extend loving kindness and compassion to all you meet today!

Bob

Robert A. Mines, Ph.D., CEO

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TotalWellbeing: March 2014

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March 2014: Emotional & Financial Wellbeing

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New View, New You!

Welcome to the March issue of TotalWellbeing! This month we look at financial wellbeing as our new topic. Finances are a topic that most of us think about every day as we pay off debt from the past, pay the bill for the present, or plan for the expenses of the future. How we manage our finances throughout our life has a direct impact on our wellbeing and happiness levels. With this in mind we will continue to look at emotional wellbeing as it connects to our financial standing as our second topic this month.

Last month on our blog we saw the first insights from our BizPsych consultants as well as eye-opening thoughts from our HealthPsych team. If you missed out please feel free to take this chance to catch up. Going forward, this March you can look forward to the first posting of the year by our very own expert psychologist and CEO, Dr. Robert Mines. And if that’s not enough, our human resources department will be sharing critical knowledge about the world of HR and all they do behind the scenes to support an organization’s most precious resource, the employees!  And as always please use this chance to let us know what you think, and what you’d like to see more of.

To your total wellbeing,

The MINES Team

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The Connection:

Occupational & Emotional Wellbeing

It’s safe to say that pretty much everyone understands that there is a direct link between your financial and emotional state. Money may not be able to buy happiness but money woes sure can bring about un-happiness. And on the flip side financial stability can free you up to focus on what really makes you happy.

Emotional Wellbeing

Financial Wellbeing

Stop Sweating the Small Stuff

Enjoying the sun

Do Your Own Financial Planning

MP900387620

One of the best things you can do on an ongoing basis is to practice letting go of the little things in life that get you down! Let these tips from wikihow show you a better way to deal with life’s little problems.

To read the full article, click here.

Sometimes financial planning and money issues can seem overwhelming. Having a good plan can help keep things in perspective and help you make smart decisions. Follow these tips from wikihow to learn some basic self planning strategies.

To read the full article, click here.

 mines_logo_blue MINES does not warrant the materials (Audio, Video, Text, Applications, or any other form of media or links) included in this communication have any connection to MINES & Associates, nor does MINES seek to endorse any entity by including these materials in this communication.  MINES accepts no liability for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided herein, nor any additional content that may be made available through any third-party site. We found them helpful, and hope you do too!

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Psychology of Performance 44: Mindfulness

Mindfulness receives a significant amount of attention and discussion throughout the media.  Mindfulness is the practice of attending to one’s experience in the present moment in a non-attached manner. The experiences may include thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and external stimuli. Jon Kabat-Zinn defined it as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmental.” (source: http://www.wildmind.org/applied/daily-life/what-is-mindfulness)

Mindfulness relates to the psychology of performance directly in that when the individual’s beliefs/filters/assumptions/schemas that are the cognitive filters we perceive events through are irrational, the individual can get emotionally triggered. This reaction can lead to negative judgmental statements that interfere with performance in any area of one’s life. For example, at a recent tae kwon do tournament, I was coaching a participant who lost a match. He had a set of beliefs that were perfectionistic: all or none. This led him to a series of negative self-talk statements such as “I am no good; I am a bad person; I can’t get this right.”  He then sat down, became non-communicative, tearful, and refused to fight in the next match resulting in another “defeat” as he was classified as a no-show and the fight went to the opponent. It took a series of discussions regarding his negative self-talk and corresponding negative feelings and physical sensations for him to get to the non-judgmental state of mind where he could then start to be kind toward himself. The important elements of this example are that the individual perceived an event through a negative set of beliefs resulting in judgmental, negative self-talk leading to negative, low performance behavior. The examples from business, relationships, sports, the arts, and other areas are endless.

The practical question is how can anyone enhance their performance if these automatic thoughts evoke almost instantaneous negative reactions? The first aspect to be learned and practiced is to learn to sit mindfully and observe without judgment one’s thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations as they arise and disappear. The breath (mantras, chants, and other focus objects) is often used as an anchor activity to return the mindfulness awareness to when the mind wanders. Many examples can be found on youtube. This is one that MINES produced as a quick starting point.

After observing the thoughts, feelings, and body sensations, one proceeds to notice any judgments about them. This is a starting point for analyzing these judgments and how they impact performance in any area of concern. To the extent that the judgments are viewed as dysfunctional, irrational, or just plain unfounded or unsubstantiated, they are fair game for retraining your self and your reactions under those circumstances so as to improve performance the next time.

Other blogs have addressed areas that can also negatively affect performance that mindfulness also can shine the light of nonattached observation related to conditions such as sleep deprivation, substance use, over eating, lack of exercise, and others that also negatively affect performance.

Have a day filled with mindfulness,

Bob

Robert A. Mines, Ph.D., CEO & Psychologist

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Marcia’s reFrame #1: The Ten Percent Rule

It’s hard to believe that February is almost already over! Those of us that made bold New Year’s resolutions may be realizing we’re hitting up against some gaps between our good intentions and the choices we’re actually making. Here is where the Ten- Percent Rule comes into play. I’m inviting you to consider that…

                   Ten percent of something is better than ninety percent of nothing!

When we get locked into perfectionist thinking, our choices become ruled by rigid, all-or-none thinking. See if you can relate to any of these examples:

  • If I can’t work out for an hour, then it doesn’t count.
  • I didn’t eat “perfectly” today so I might as well completely indulge and have that Ben and Jerry’s pint of ice cream that has my name written on it!
  • I know I was suppose to stick to my budget BUT I couldn’t resist the sale and ended up buying 3 pairs of shoes – after all, they were fifty percent off!
  • I forgot to take my vitamins today so I might as well have that third glass of wine and drink to a better start tomorrow.
  • I know I said I was going to aim for eight hours of sleep and it’s already 10:00pm, but I just want to get on Face Book for ten minutes. (We all know how that ten minutes can magically become an hour and ten minutes!)

The next time you’re in a situation where it’s clear you have competing interests for your resources (time, money, energy) see if you can apply the Ten Percent Rule.

  • I know I wanted to exercise for an hour AND since I only have twenty minutes, I’ll take the dogs for a walk. Or, I’ll do at least thirty minutes on the treadmill which is better than doing nothing at all.
  • I know I wasn’t impeccable at lunch today, so I’ll skip dessert tonight or eat a lighter dinner.
  • I forgot to take my calcium supplements today so I’ll make sure to eat something rich in calcium.
  • I am going to set the computer on a timer for twenty minutes when I get onto Face Book since I tend to loose track of time once I start looking up old friends.

As a dear friend reminds me, “it’s not about perfect, it’s about doing something better”, and, “once you do something better, you can do something a little better from there”.

I hope the Ten Percent Rule allows you to move towards accepting “better” as a great place to be. It brings with it less destructive self-talk and more opportunities to celebrate the successes that 10 percent of something will bring you. The cumulative effect of making better choices and doing 10 percent of something to reach your goals will definitely have an impact on getting better results!

To Your Health and Wellbeing,

- Marcia

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Psychological Aspects of Financial Wellbeing

There are countless resources online that give advice on how to budget, how to get out of debt, how to save, how to invest, and so many more topics on money and finances. The interesting question, then, is why is money still such a difficult issue for people?  Why don’t we all feel financially confident and successful, all the time?

At first glance, money and wellbeing (one’s state of overall health, across all components of life) may not seem to go together. However, there are numerous psychological components associated with people and their financial wellbeing. The broad categories include brain chemistry, the behavioral economics of loss aversion, family views of money and what it means, and personal beliefs regarding money, its meaning and how to manage it. There are also many others that will not be addressed in this blog.

The neurochemical elements related to money have to do with brain changes related to spending money versus saving money. It is well documented that when people act on urges for immediate gratification (i.e., I need those shoes NOW!), they activate specific chemical “pleasure centers” in the brain, which can cause them to have stronger, more frequent urges to repeat the gratifying behavior.  Some people have a more difficult time delaying gratification than others.  This experience alone accounts for significant differences in people who are able to save: they are able to study instead of play, achieve higher levels in education and subsequently higher levels of income, which can be tied to money wellbeing later in life. People who routinely act on spending impulses often run up debt, have cash flow problems and subsequent stress related to these situations. Other neurochemistry-related conditions that negatively affect financial wellbeing include addiction (to food, drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, etc.), which often includes diverting money to support those immediate gratification demands of addiction with corresponding money problems.

The area of behavioral economics includes a significant body of research related to factors of influence and people’s decisions about money and subsequent financial wellbeing. For example, most people would rather not lose money than take the risk of getting more money. This was played out again in the last recession, when people pulled their money out of a market that was dropping in prices, bonds paid virtually nothing. Yet people who had cash and were risk-aversive did not reinvest ended up missing out on 70-200% returns in stocks over the next few years. Those who thought bonds were safe ended up losing money against inflation, even as low as it was during that time. This clearly had an impact on financial wellbeing.

Family views about money are passed on in the form of modeling, messages and social influence. For example, a family that views money as a typically scarce resource that should be shared equally will expect family members who do succeed in attaining higher levels of financial wellbeing to subsidize them. This can create family stress if the individual who has the money disagrees with the others’ beliefs about it. There is case after case of lottery winners suddenly being contacted by family members they had not heard from in a while asking for money. There are also a number of lottery winners who went bankrupt. Some of the reasons for this can be traced to family views about money, a feeling or belief that they did not deserve it, not knowing how to manage it, and an inability to tolerate the social isolation of being in a different economic stratum than their extended family, among other elements.

Individual beliefs about money play an important role in financial wellbeing. How people think about money plays out in their everyday decisions. If one cannot see their “future self” clearly, they may have difficulty saving or participating in their employer’s 401K. Those who do have a clear view of their future self generally find it easier to save and invest systematically. Some people have “all or none” beliefs about money. If they have it, they spend all of it.  If they were going to save, and spent it instead, then they say they will start tomorrow. Unfortunately, tomorrow never comes because they repeat the same sequence the next time. This is in contrast to people who view money with more complexity, who are able to allocate money to budget categories, and value the practice of paying themselves first (saving) versus spending.

What can you do to build your awareness of the psychological aspects of financial wellbeing, and make them work in your favor?

  1. Spend time becoming aware of your thoughts and beliefs about money. Where did you learn them? How do they serve you? How do they positively or negatively impact your financial wellbeing?
  2. If your neurochemistry is part of your financial wellbeing in a negative way (addictions, impulse control) consider seeking professional help.
  3. Identify your family patterns related to money. How do they enhance or detract from your financial wellbeing? How do you feel about what you learned or did not learn from your family related to money?
  4. Become aware of external factors related to behavioral economics that lead to risk-aversive versus “irrationally exuberant” decisions.

To Your Wellbeing,

Mines, R.A., Stone, W.C., DeKeyser, H.E.

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Psychology of Performance 43: Colorado Obesity, Chronic Illness, and Hope!

I just returned from the 10th Annual Executive Forum on Rewarding Healthy Behaviors. There were many outstanding presentations and very impressive thought leaders at the conference. The presentation by Kayla Harris, MS, Kaiser Permanente/Colorado, and Lia Schoepke, MBA-HA, Weigh and Win: Wellness 2.0: A Scalable and Affordable Model for Communities and Employers, is the focus of this blog post.

The Weigh and Win project is funded by Kaiser Permanente as part of its community outreach and is delivered by Weigh and Win, a program of Incentahealth.

As you may know, obesity is correlated with heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and other medical problems – both acute and chronic. Colorado has the lowest obesity rates in the country (now at 20.5%) which is almost double what it was in the early 1990’s. In this case being number one is humbling given the performance record of a 100% increase in obesity. The factors implicated in our obesity rate include: increased processed meals, increase in processed foods, increase in sugar products in many of our processed foods and drink, reduction in plant based food regimens, increased animal protein consumption, decreased exercise, social network data of your “friends friends make you fat,” and the list goes on.

The Weigh and Win program is free to Coloradans 18 and older. It includes state of the art kiosks located throughout Colorado. These HIPAA compliant kiosks weigh the person, take a picture and provide side by side comparisons from the last picture, archive data on weight loss, show goal progress, and optimize basic gamification principles. In addition, employers can sign up for the program and the kiosks can be used on-site by their employees. The program utilizes cash incentives, health coaches, phone apps, and integration with social media and other platforms, and makes no dietary recommendations except to follow the federal guidelines for nutrition.

The community performance and individual performance is compelling. Over 124,000 pounds have been lost, plus 44,000 people have participated, and many individuals have lost over 100 plus pounds.

From a psychology of performance standpoint, the data speak for themselves. From a research standpoint, many questions come to mind regarding participants’ beliefs, behaviors, the role of incentives, long term maintenance of weight loss after the first year, what the characteristics were of those who succeeded versus dropped out, co-morbid conditions such as diabetes or heart disease, and if these conditions improved, plus numerous other questions.

My heartfelt congratulations to Kaiser Permanente and Weigh and Win for creating such an innovative and scalable community intervention!

 

Want to know more:

www.weighandwin.com/

www.Facebook.com/WeighandWin

www.Twitter.com/WeighandWin

www.Pinterest.com/WeighandWin

 

Extend love and happiness to all those you meet!

Bob

Robert A. Mines, Ph.D., CEO & Psychologist

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Snapshots of Organizational Adventures #1: Currency of Collaboration

Our BizPsych blog posts for 2014 will feature examples of projects we have facilitated, or are facilitating, to enhance organizational functioning. Our hope for these blogs is that the issues we present may resonate with you in some way and our interventions may give you some ideas about how to enhance your own organization’s wellbeing. In this first blog, we present a model we have utilized in several situations in which small teams were struggling to work collaboratively: Productivity was negatively impacted, trust was compromised, and over all morale was declining.

We have been refining this approach over several years and entitle it “The Currency of Collaboration.” Interestingly, this approach is equally as effective with teams where collaboration hasn’t broken down and there is a desire to enhance it. We have also presented this as a training.

“The Currency of Collaboration” actively invites us to look at the choices we make that objectify others and lead us to work around them as obstacles, instead of clarifying our perceptions so that we are able to collaborate fully. The challenge in this approach is that in order for it to be successful, participants need to engage in self-awareness and accountability. In this blog, we will describe how we have managed this in our work with small teams.

General Description: The team consists of 3-8 members. Several members have worked together over a period of many years. During that time there have been personal disappointments, relationship fallout, accusations of work ethic variance, and lack of competence, integrity, and mistakes. Managers are typically involved in the group. Issues of seniority and power have aggravated the breakdowns. Performance has suffered and the group appeared to be at a breaking point.

Assessment: In most cases we have been able to start with an individual assessment of each member of the group. This allows each member to be heard in a confidential setting. This provides valuable insight into what’s at hand and what’s at stake. It also creates the opportunity for building trust with the facilitators and buy-in for the process. At the very least, the interview process helps us customize the materials and the process in order to fit the specific needs of the group. In the cases we were not able to have formal assessment interviews, we  at least had some pre-meetings with the group to explain the process, answer questions, and begin some dialogue.

Currency of Collaboration Process: We have facilitated this process in a half-day to full-day session. We begin with introductions aimed at helping individuals see one another as “whole persons.” We introduce fun, interactive exercises that are light-hearted and help put people at ease. It is important to set the objectives for the session clearly and solicit input about the value. We invite accountability from each person, encourage active engagement in the process, and request self-observation as an essential criterion for success. The upshot of this process is to engage the members in truly seeing the ways we tend to depersonalize one another because of disappointments, unmet expectations, filters we carry, choices to withhold help, and direct confrontation. We end up with distorted perceptions of situations and each other and end up working around one another rather than truly supporting one another’s success. A primary accomplishment is to help individuals see how they do this and then provide specific strategies to move them to choices of collaboration. There are specifically designed exercises for members to work through the model in pairs in order to resolve issues of their choosing.

Results: In some cases, the results were transformative. People, who were truly stuck in relationships characterized by unresolved conflicts, were able to shift. Barriers that had been created due to objectifying and depersonalizing one another started to come down. People were able to start talking to each other, rather than avoiding or distancing. Individuals were able to acknowledge their role and contributions to the breakdowns. They started using a common language to refer to behaviors that lead to collusion, as well as those that helped improve their relationship. They started making intentional choices and engage in behaviors that fostered a collaborative work environment.

In all cases, the experience of going through this process created a shift in the team. They still had challenging issues to resolve and they were now able to approach them in a more skillful manner. Their ability to engage in perspective-taking improved, and as a result, they were better able to see one another as colleagues with shared common interests.

Questions to consider:

  1. Has this happened in a work environment you’ve participated in?
  2. What was done to successfully resolve these issues?
  3. If it were to happen to you, what tools do you have at your disposal to counter the barriers either proactively, or after they have begun to affect the working environment?

Patrick Hiester, MA, LPC

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